Gone are the days of boring bathroom mirrors that only reflect what's in front of them. What you really need is a bathroom mirror that gives stock quotes, displays the local weather, and tells you the temperature of the water you are about to use to wash your face. Seraku Corporation is now in the process of filling that burning need and has gotten a bunch of press attention by doing so. A cynic might wonder why people who absolutely, positively must have Internet access while they shave or perform other bathroom mirror duties don't just make a wall-mounted holder for their tablets next to their pre-Internet bathroom mirrors, but that would destroy the fun of having the display built directly into the mirror, along with sensors that detect hand gestures so you can control your mirror (no doubt by asking, "Who is the fairest of them all?") without touching it with your greasy fingers. Note that this is technically not a smart mirror but a smart washbasin with a mirror attached to it. Either way, it's not available for retail sale quite yet.
By now, most Americans have either heard or learned firsthand that the Healthcare.gov website doesn't work right. Slings, arrows, and brickbats are being slung all over Washington, and Congressional representatives are busily thundering imprecations at all and sundry who were involved in putting Healthcare.gov together. If there have been any Congressional hearing focusing on how to fix the problems, though, we have not seen them. You'd think that our representatives would bring in people like today's interviewee, Todd Williams, who has written a book titled Rescue the Problem Project and runs a company that specializes in rescuing failed projects. What's more, Todd is just one of many Americans who have helped rescue projects that have gone awry. Hopefully our government has at least one of them working on Healthcare.gov by now, although we haven't heard that they've selected a strong turnaround manager and set him or her to work on the project -- and you'd think they would have told us if they had.
What ever happened to point-and-click action role-playing games? Blizzard set the standard for this genre around the turn of the century, and while a few companies have launched Diablo clones, it's been a pretty quiet market. Several years ago, a group of hardcore gamers decided to change that. They put together an independent game studio and began developing Path of Exile, an ARPG that would update and refine all of the characteristics that made the genre great. On 23 October, after a lengthy open beta period, they launched the game, opting for a free-to-play business model supported by ethical microtransactions. It's dark, freewheeling, unashamedly complex — and a lot of fun. In this video review (with transcript), we take a look at what Path of Exile has to offer.
Milverton Wallace (@milvy on Twitter) might seem an unlikely candidate to be setting up hackathons in the UK; his background is as a journalist, and he was born a few thousand miles away in Jamaica. Nonetheless, when I met up with him at last month’s AppsWorld in London, he was about to conduct another in a series of hackathons at Google’s London campus. He’s got some interesting things to say about the mechanics and reasons for putting a bunch of programmers (and/or kids who aren’t yet programmers per se) into a room, and giving them a good environment for creativity. He has some harsh words for the UK school system’s approach to computer education (which sounds an awful lot like the U.S. approach in far too many schools), and praise for efforts (like the Raspberry Pi Foundation) to bring programming to British classrooms, both earlier and with more depth. The same ideas should apply world-wide.
With her signature pink hair, MIT engineer Limor Fried has become a force in the maker movement. Last year she was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur Magazine, and her company, Adafruit Industries, did $10 million in sales. Limor has agreed to take some time away from soldering and running a new company to answer your questions about hardware, electronics, and Adafruit. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Copenhagen Suborbitals says their mission is "very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space." That doesn't sound so simple, really, but they're approaching this gargantuan task with an intentionally simple approach: a small team, relatively unhampered by bureaucratic hassles, who are taking advantage of existing, off-the-shelf high-tech solutions when they make sense, and low-tech solutions when possible; if the parable of the Soviet space pencil hadn't worked its way into the mythology of space technology, it could have been based on the Copenhagen Suborbitals point of view. I talked with project co-founder Kristian von Bengston about the project's progress so far, as well as what the next steps are. Among those next steps: in summer 2014, the Suborbitals team plans to launch their HEAT2X lift vehicle loaded with the TDS-80 capsule; you can download the preliminary trajectory projections for both the launcher and the capsule.
Benjamin Heckendorn, better known as Ben Heck, has become famous for modding consoles and game controllers. Over 10 million viewers worldwide have watched The Ben Heck Show to see him create something new out of old gaming systems every week. Been has agreed to leave the Ataris alone for a while and answer your questions about console modding and gaming in general. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
In this video, we continue our conversation with author David Craddock about his investigation into the early days of game studio Blizzard for his new book, Stay Awhile and Listen. He's joined by Dave Brevik and Max Schaefer, two of the co-founders of Blizzard North. They talk about keeping games accessible, the importance of getting the amount of background story right in Diablo, and whether the creators of these early games have any regrets about them. They also talk about designing The Butcher. (This is video part 2 of 2. The transcript of Part 1 is now available, too, if you care to go back and read it.)
Her bio says, "Esther Schindler has been writing about computers – with a particular focus on software development and open source – since the early 1990s. You’ve seen Esther’s byline in prominent IT publications, such as CIO.com, IT World, and IEEE Spectrum. She's written dozens of analyst reports for Evans Data about software development trends. Her name is on the cover of about a dozen books, including most recently The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Twitter Marketing. Esther is editor of a site for software developers, these days, while still freelancing occasionally for IT World (most recently The developer's guide to future car technology) and she writes a blog about project management." She submits her own work to Slashdot, and submits work for other writers, too. She may or may not be the most successful Slashdot submitter of all time, based on the percentage of her submissions that show up on the front page, but she is absolutely in the top 10. In this interview, she shares some of her secrets. Maybe Esther's thoughts will help you submit more successfully. (So will reading the Slashdot FAQ.)
In this video, we talk with author David Craddock about his investigation into the early days of game studio Blizzard for his new book, Stay Awhile and Listen. He's joined by Dave Brevik and Max Schaefer, two of the co-founders of Blizzard North. They talk about some of the ways in which making video games was different back in the early '90s -- and the ways it's similar to making games today. They also discuss the importance of having lively debates, and how one of those arguments led to Diablo being a real-time action game, instead of being turn-based. (This is the first half of an extended interview -- part 2 will be available on Monday.
Goodwill Industries rehabs computers and sells computer parts, at least in Austin, Texas. The Goodwill Computer Museum is a natural outgrowth of that effort. In this video, museum curator Lisa Worley takes Slashdot's Timothy Lord on a tour of the museum. Remember that TRS-80 you threw away in 1982? Well, they saved several of them to stimulate your nostalgia-based pleasure nodules. Ditto many other devices both common and rare, including a pre-Dell computer made and signed by Texas computer celebrity Michael Dell. So sit back and enjoy the ride, as Timothy does the walking and Lisa does the talking, kind of like Night at the Museum -- but without CGI dinosaurs and other life forms getting between you and the classic computers.
Jason Calacanis gained notoriety first through Silicon Alley Reporter and later for being a co-founder of Weblogs, Inc. He's now an angel investor and has a company called, LAUNCH, which holds conferences and technology related events. The upcoming Launch Hackathon will be the largest in the world with over 1,000 developers already signed up and prizes of $800k invested in two of the top ten finalists. We had a chance to sit down with Jason to talk about what makes this hackathon so special and the future of angel investing. Read below to see what he had to say.
Slashdot visited Fort Wayne, Indiana, during its 2013 Maker Faire. We brought back videos of R2D2 model makers in all their bleeping glory, Mad Sasquatch Rocketry launching rockets, and functioning home-made jet engines, which no Maker Faire should be without. Since Fort Wayne has a strong industrial history, it is not surprising that this Maker Faire had more industrial-scale exhibits than most maker-type events Slashdot has attended. The noise level in much of the event area was industrial scale, too, which is why this video sounds the way it does. But we love large, noisy machinery, not just computers so quiet you can't hear their fans (if, indeed, they *have* fans), so we're happy to enjoy some good Industrial Sound and check out some of Mark Phenicie's steampunk creations now and then.
A big question college students should be asking is, "What IT and electronics knowledge will be most in demand five or six years from now?" In these fast moving niches, an answer is almost impossible to come by. But what if you were one of the people who supplied raw components to the electronics industry? Wouldn't you have a better handle than most on what kind of devices and components are becoming more popular among prototypers and engineers? And wouldn't watching those trends possibly give you at least a little insight into what the future might hold? Randy Restle, Director of Applications Engineering at component supplier Digi-Key Corporation, carefully tracks orders and tries to determine what's hot and what's not. His reason for doing so is to figure out what Digi-Key should stock in coming months and years. But his insights can also be used to decide what you might want to study or -- if you're already working in the field -- what products you or your company should consider developing. Digi-Key also has an online video library where they feature new products and give ideas of what you can do with them. Even if you're not an engineer or electronics hobbyist, it's fun to see what's available but may not have hit the mass market quite yet.
If you have the Social Fixer extension installed on your Web browser, you can post Facebook comments with line breaks you control with your "Enter" key, and insert your comments with "Tab + Enter." If you want to, that is. If you want to change the color of the blue "Facebook bar" at the top of your screen to puce, go right ahead. Want to have your newsfeed show the most recent stories at the top, rather than "Trending Articles" and "Trending Videos," or hide the "ticker feed" of friends' activities? Go right ahead. Social Fixer gives you the power to do all this, and more. Best of all, everything happens in your own browser. Social Fixer makes no changes to Facebook's servers and is not dependent on Facebook's APIs. Still, Facebook doesn't like some Social Fixer features, and says creator Matt Kruze must remove them if he doesn't want to be banned from Facebook. They've already removed his Social Fixer page from Facebook, so they apparently mean business. The Social Fixer website says it's "a free browser extension that improves the Facebook site by eliminating annoyances and adding lots of great enhancements and functionality." We don't know why Facebook would be against a browser extension (available for most popular browsers other than Explorer) that improves their users' site experience. Maybe someone from Facebook will contact us and let us know. Meanwhile, enjoy our video interview with Matt Kruze (or the transcript if you would rather read than watch and listen). One last note in the interest of full disclosure: Both Timothy Lord (timothy) and Robin Miller (Roblimo) use and like Social Fixer and believe that If you try it, chances are that you'll like it, too.
Kevin Fu is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. He heads a research group on medical-device security, Archimedes, that works to find vulnerabilities in medical equipment. WattsUpDoc, a system that can detect malware on medical devices by monitoring changes in power consumption, is based on his work. Professor Fu has agreed to put down the pacemakers for a moment and answer your questions about his work and medical device security in general. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
In response to both of my previous articles raising questions about the Fifth Amendment, people sent me a link to a famous video titled "Don't Talk To Cops" delivered by Regents University law professor James Duane. Whether his conclusion is correct or not, I think the argument is flawed in several ways. Please continue reading below to see what I think is wrong with his position.
That things are bigger in Texas is sometimes more than just a cliche. A few weeks ago, on the way to LinuxCon, I stopped by what is certainly the biggest hackerspace that I've ever seen; is it the biggest in the world? Whatever the answer is to that, Houston's TX/RX Labs is not just big — it's busy, and booked. Unlike some spaces we've highlighted here before (like Seattle's Metrix:CreateSpace and Brooklyn's GenSpace), TX/RX Labs has room and year-round sunshine enough to contemplate putting a multi-kilowatt solar array in the backyard. Besides an array of CNC machines, 3-D printers, and both wood- and metal-working equipment, TX/RX has workbenches available for members to rent. (These are serious workspaces, made in-house of poured concrete and welded steel tubing.) Member Steve Cameron showed me around, but TX/RX Labs is so large that we broke the tour into two parts, with the other one set to display next week.
Anant Agarwal is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the President of edX. A massive open online course platform founded by MIT and Harvard, edX offers numerous courses on a wide variety of subjects and is affiliated with 29 different institutes of higher education. Mr. Agarwal has agreed to take some time out of his schedule and answer your questions about edX and the future of learning. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.